Our chapter on the 1917 renewal of the A.J.C. classic narrated the early history of the Melton Stud and the emergence of The Welkin as Australia’s leading stallion. As we have seen, over the years The Welkin sired some wonderful youngsters and older middle-distance horses, and Ernest Clarke, who owned him, retained many of them to race in his colours. But when Clarke sold Gloaming as a yearling, he lost the best horse The Welkin ever got, and the only one to win an A.J.C. Derby. It seemed rather fitting, therefore, that when Ernest Clarke finally did manage to win the Derby at Randwick, it was with a homebred colt by Cyklon, the stallion that succeeded The Welkin at his famous stud. Cyklon’s history, and how he came to be installed at Melton Park, is worth relating.
The horse was owned by the Imperial Graditz Stud in Prussia, and was a son of Spearmint, and therefore, a grandson of Carbine. Before World War I the Australian jockey Frank Bullock had been riding on the Continent, and he was successful on Cyklon in Germany. However, before Cyklon won his first race in that country, he had been nominated for a series of maiden plates in England. In those days, such events were open to horses that were maidens at the time of nomination. Cyklon was victorious in four of those races and on the fifth occasion enjoyed a walkover. Upon the outbreak of hostilities, however, Cyklon was seized by the British Government as an enemy possession and subsequently came onto the market. Bullock, aware of the horse’s ability, managed to negotiate his purchase together with another thoroughbred in a package deal worth 125 guineas with the Department of Fisheries in England, which, believe it or not, at the time controlled racing there. Cyklon was then exported to Australia and eventually on-sold to trainer James Scobie, who was acting on behalf of Mrs Richard Hawker of South Australia. In Adelaide, the horse won some races of the highest class, including the 1916 Adel. R.C. Birthday Cup, as well as being successful in both the Eclipse Stakes and the St George Stakes at Caulfield. In most of his wins, Bob Lewis, who was a brother-in-law to Frank Bullock, rode him.
Cyklon stood his first season at the Morphettville Stud in South Australia that was owned by Mrs Hawker’s husband. It was Scobie, managing the Welkin Stud on behalf of Ernest Clarke, who recommended that Clarke buy Cyklon as a replacement for The Welkin, now advanced in years. On the whole, he proved a disappointing substitute considering the quality of the mares that were laid on for him at the stud; but that’s not to say that he didn’t get the odd good performer. One of those distinguished matrons sent to him was Trey, herself the winner of a V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate and one of six full brothers and sisters by The Welkin from the imported foundation mare Teppo, who all managed to win major races on the Australian Turf.
It is worth examining the phenomenon of Teppo and her monogamous relationship with The Welkin in the breeding barn at Melton in some detail. The famous mare was foaled in England in 1908 and was classically bred. A daughter of Ladas, the winner of the English Two Thousand Guineas and Derby in 1894, whom Mathew Dawson trained at Newmarket for the 5th Earl of Rosebery, Teppo’s dam was Dum Dum, a daughter of Carbine and as such a constant reminder of just what the Australian Stud Book had lost in the sale of that great champion to the Duke of Portland. Charm, the mother of Dum Dum, was by St Simon and a full sister to Amiable, winner of both the English One Thousand Guineas and the English Oaks of 1894. Teppo’s first foal in the Melton paddocks that came along in 1913 was Three, who after winning the Fulham Park Plate for Ernest Clarke was passed on to a New Zealand sportsman for 300 guineas and went on to sire two individual stakes winners in Figure and Trice. Deneb followed Three and she proved a good stakes earner as she won five races including the rich V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes. Deneb, too, was soon retired to become a valuable broodmare. Just how valuable, we will see in our 1933 chapter.
The colt Thrice was the third foal to come along in as many years and was the best of Teppo’s progeny on the racecourse. He proved himself the finest two-year-old of his year when he annexed the Sires’ Produce Stakes at both Flemington and Randwick together with the V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes and A.J.C. Champagne Stakes. The following season he carried the light blue and pink livery of Ernest Clarke first past the post in the Caulfield Guineas. It was no surprise that he later matured into a crack stallion when Norman Falkiner stood him at his Noorilim Stud. Thrice was the first of three colts in succession to drop from the loins of Teppo. The next two, Volpi and Elkin were only fair gallopers by comparison with their earlier siblings but each won a principal race nonetheless. Volpi later in life won the R.R.C. Railway Handicap while Elkin took out The A.J.C. Shorts.
A filly, Isa, was the last in an unbroken succession of Teppo’s foals in consecutive years to be distinguished on the racecourse. Like her acclaimed older brother Thrice, Isa won both the Ascot Vale Stakes and Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington in the autumn of 1921. Moreover, through her speedy daughter Belle Gallante, who would narrowly win the 1927 A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes at Randwick, she, too, would become a prized broodmare as we shall see in our 1938 chapter. Teppo had later foals in later years but none of particular note. However, let us just pause and reflect upon those seven successive foals by The Welkin that she dropped between the years 1912 and 1918. Collectively, those three colts (Volpi was later gelded) and four fillies won twelve principal races on the Australian Turf while at stud the four fillies would drop no less than eight individual stakes winners of sixteen stakes races. Thrice as a stallion would go on to sire six individual stakes winners of nine stakes races including Redshank, winner of the 1925 V.R.C. Oaks, and Thurlstone, winner of both the 1930 V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes and V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes – two races that just seemed to run in the family!
I might mention that when Trey beat Tressady Queen and Midilli to win the Maribyrnong Plate, it marked the first metropolitan winner that season for Scobie and Clarke as a team – surely a happy portent. A compact, chestnut filly with a white blaze, Trey was quite brilliant as a spring two-year-old and had only just been beaten on debut in the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes when she ran second to another smart filly by The Welkin in Etive. Etive was also owned by Ernest Clarke, but she was trained by Norman Scobie, James’s son, who was just then beginning to make his mark as a trainer. The following month at the V.R.C. Spring Meeting, Norman Scobie won the V.R.C. Oaks with Hyades, yet another daughter of The Welkin that he prepared on behalf of Clarke. Brought across to Sydney in the autumn of 1920, Trey wrenched her hip while galloping at Randwick and was off the scene for quite some time. She never regained her early dash and James Scobie recommended to Clarke that she be retired to the Melton paddocks to be served by Wolawa, Clarke’s Victoria Derby and dual St Leger winner, in the spring of 1921.
The result of that mating was Laveuse, who, when offered as a yearling, was sold to none other than Jack Brewer for 230 guineas and he placed her in the Caulfield stables of Cecil Godby. Given her pedigree, it was always expected that Trey would produce speedy stock and it didn’t take her long to justify the prophecy. Laveuse won the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes on debut in early October 1924. Brewer named the filly after a mare that he had used as a trial horse in England nearly twenty years before. In the English racing season of 1908, the original Laveuse picked up two selling races at Newmarket being ridden by Frank Bullock and Stanley Wootton respectively. When Demure was being prepared over there by Brewer for her Cesarewitch triumph, Laveuse accompanied the mare in her trackwork. Brewer retained such affection for the mare that he had no hesitation naming the Wolawa filly after her.
The next pairing of Trey at the Melton Stud was with Cyklon and this resulted in the foaling in 1923 of Treylon, a future winner of the V.A.T.C. Debutant Stakes. However, it was Trey’s second affair with Cyklon the following season that interests us most in this chapter for it produced an even more spectacular result, a rich chestnut colt with a silver mane and tail that revived memories of Trafalgar. And let it be said that for one spectacular season at least, the comparisons with Trafalgar were not based on looks alone. Ernest Clarke registered the youngster as Trivalve. Such was the reputation of the Melton Stud by the time Trivalve was a yearling that Australia’s recently arrived 8th Governor-General, Lord Stonehaven, and his wife, requested a visit to inspect the place. Accordingly, it was on Monday 18 January 1926, that Lord and Lady Stonehaven spent a very pleasant afternoon inspecting the Melton Stud in the company of James Scobie, who was on hand to entertain them and marshal the thoroughbreds for vice-regal inspection. While the guests paid most attention to the two distinguished, elderly matrons Teppo and Light, little did they realise that they were also admiring a future Melbourne Cup winner in the paddocks that was soon to enter James Scobie’s stables.
It is interesting to speculate as to the price Trivalve might have realised had he been sold as a yearling in 1926. For there was froth and bubbles aplenty at the Easter Yearling Sales of both the Inglis and Chisholm companies in April that year, which saw the Australian record price for a yearling broken no less than three times. Most of the excitement was engendered by the progeny of the magnificent Valais. The 3050 guineas paid for Orcus, the younger full brother to Poseidon, as a yearling back in the autumn of 1907 by Hugh Denison had stood for 19 years but was beaten on Thursday, 8th April 1926 when trainer Bill Kelso paid 3800 guineas for the half-brother to Belgamba, the dual St Leger winner. Kelso was acting on behalf of the octogenarian pastoralist John McCaughey, owner of Yarrabee station in the Narrandera district of New South Wales. The colt, later registered as Glenariff, was by the all-conquering stallion Valais out of the broodmare Bunee.
However, Kelso held the bidding record for just 24 hours, for on the following day Ned Moss outlaid 4100 guineas for yet another Valais colt in Sion, the younger brother to his good horse, Vaals. It didn’t surprise Moss’s trainer Fred Williams when he found out that Moss was in the market for Sion as he was a beautiful-looking colt, but the lengths to which Moss was prepared to go to obtain him did. For L. K. S. Mackinnon had set his hat at the colt too! But this record lasted only a matter of hours for later that very afternoon at the nearby Chisholm sales, the Melbourne wool magnate E. M. Pearce forked out 5500 guineas for yet another Valais colt in the shape of a brother to the champion mare Valicare. Two of the three record-priced yearlings, in Glenariff and Sion, would make it into the 1927 A.J.C. Derby field, while the most expensive of the trio, registered as Avant Courier, would win the Caulfield Guineas.
A good two-year-old, Trivalvle had the misfortune of being out in the same season as the outstanding Royal Feast. A massive colt by the imported Caulfield Cup winner King Offa and bred by Ted Underwood, Royal Feast had been purchased as a yearling by W.E.J. Craig for 700 guineas. He was one of the biggest two-year-olds seen in Melbourne for many years, and was literally and figuratively head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Trivalve ran into this giant when he made his racecourse debut at Flemington in the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes in early October 1926 – Royal Feast winning rather easily with Ernest Clarke’s colt unplaced. While Royal Feast went on to win the Maribyrnong Plate on the opening day of the V.R.C. Spring Meeting, Trivalve didn’t break through until later in the same week, when at his fourth start he took out the V.R.C. Flemington Stakes on Oaks Day. He was then given a spell and brought back in the late summer to run two good races behind Royal Feast at the same course – second in the Sires’ Produce Stakes, beaten a half-length, and then third in the Ascot Vale Stakes.
It was only in the absence of Royal Feast that two days later Trivalve was at last able to show the public at large, something of the promise of his home gallops. It came in the Gibson Carmichael Stakes, when with 9 st. 3lb he revealed his seemingly bottomless reserves of courage. The trick to riding him, as Lewis discovered, was to grind away but not let him hit the front too soon lest the lazy fellow just idled. Trivalve came across to Sydney for the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting but was all at sea on the water-logged track that passed for Randwick during that late and very wet Easter. April was an excellent month for umbrella salesmen. For the first time since 1919, the first day of the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting had to be postponed because of torrential rain, and accordingly, the Sires’ Produce Stakes was run on Easter Monday. The course remained a sea of mud, a state of affairs that didn’t perturb Royal Feast, who ploughed through the ground to win running away with Trivalve failing to run a place.
The rains continued to tumble in the days afterwards. The Sydney Cup, which was put back to Wednesday, was further postponed until the following Saturday, April 23rd. The Easter Stakes was also run on Cup Day, and Scobie accepted with Trivalve although not with any real hope, given the conditions. And again, he failed to run a place. Only when the ground became firmer by the third day of the meeting did Trivalve disclose anything of his real ability, when he finished strongly for the minor placing in the Champagne Stakes. In that race Royal Feast blotted his copybook when heavily in the red and burdened with the full 10lb penalty, he was beaten into second placing by the Melbourne colt, Cannon. The event brought the curtain down on the leading juveniles for the season. Incidentally, the fourth and last day of that infamous autumn meeting at Randwick finally took place on April 28 – fully twelve days after its scheduled start. In all the years since I doubt whether Sydney has had a wetter Easter.
There was no argument that Royal Feast was the star juvenile of the season. The Brobdingnagian monster had started seven times, winning four races and finishing second in the other three. His earnings of £13,119 inclusive of the breeder’s premium of £250 for his win at Randwick, established a new Australian record in juvenile stakes, eclipsing Heroic’s previous figure of £11,801. In the extravagant euphoria of the moment, bookmakers installed the horse favourite for both the Derbies and the Cups. Despite the boom, there seemed to be altogether too much of him to appeal as a genuine Derby colt or a prospective stayer. Although big colts had proven capable of winning the Derby – Sylvanite was an example – most keen judges were prepared to look past Royal Feast.
In the end, it was never put to the test. He resumed at his home course of Williamstown early in the new season in the Underwood Stakes but performed badly after being quite easy in the betting. Shortly after that, he was scratched from all of his spring engagements, an action that proved rather costly to the public and created quite a stir in racing circles, given that the Sinclair stable divulged as little information as possible as to the reason for his withdrawal. The truth of the matter was that the horse was undergoing an operation for a wind infirmity. Although it was later reported that Royal Feast had recovered, he dramatically dropped dead in the first week of January 1928 while doing light exercise in preparation for the Oakleigh Plate. Just how good he might have been, is anyone’s guess.
The horse destined to start as the favourite for the 1927 A.J.C. Derby, had hardly registered a blip in his two-year-old season relative to Royal Feast. Winalot, the horse in question, was a baldy-faced chunky chestnut colt by Rossendale out of Princess Volga, a daughter of Malt King, and a mare who though unraced had been trained as a two-year-old. Both in colour and markings, Winalot was very much like Malt King. Bred at George and Hugh Main’s Retreat Stud, Illabo, on the southern line, Winalot had been offered at the Chisholm and Company’s annual sale of yearlings and purchased by none other than Harry Chisholm himself for 250 guineas. Chisholm kept a couple of his own mares at the Retreat Stud and Princess Volga was one of them. The proceeds from the sale of any of the mare’s progeny were divided between Chisholm and the Main brothers. Old Harry had always fancied the flashy yearling colt by Rossendale as he galloped about the Illabo paddocks and didn’t hesitate to step in when there were few other interested parties at the auction. Even before the colt had ever raced, Chisholm firmly believed that he had found that elusive Derby colt to carry his black jacket and red cap, although for a while his hopes were only built to be shattered.
Booked into the stables of George Price at Randwick, Winalot showed enough speed to be placed in his heat of the Victoria Park Two-Year-Old Trials in late September. Saddled up for the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate, Winalot failed to run a place in the fourteen-horse field in the hands of Bill Duncan, the race being won by Beckwith, a Greenstead colt, bred, owned and trained by Fred Williams. In six appearances as a juvenile, Winalot only managed to win once, a minor seven-furlong handicap at Rosehill in May at his final outing. It wasn’t before time. Only a fortnight earlier, Winalot had cost his stable a lot of money when, after being heavily supported in the betting ring, he could only dead-heat for third in a division of the Youthful Stakes behind a promising two-year-old by the name of Statesman at the City Tattersall’s Meeting at Randwick. Truth be told, Winalot had cost Harry Chisholm a lot more than his purchase price in losing wagers before finally breaking through at Rosehill.
There was a poignancy about Winalot’s maiden victory, which sadly went unwitnessed by the horse’s popular owner, Harry Chisholm. For Chisholm was in the last weeks of a fatal illness that would claim his life in Lewisham Hospital after an unsuccessful operation there. Harry had never been a lucky owner, despite always having a racehorse or two in training. In his youth, he had been a prominent amateur rider at the Tirranna Picnic Races, running a number of horses there and remaining one of the oldest members of the club right up to the time of his death. Prior to Winalot, Harry’s best galloper had been Silent Way, winner of the 1918 Newcastle Cup, and his only winner since then had been Midlothian in a Rosehill Highweight in June 1926. Little wonder that with such a poor record as an owner, his friends had jibed him when he registered the Rossendale youngster as Winalot. Perhaps the saddest aspect of Chisholm’s death was that when it occurred, both his wife and daughter were absent in England.
Harry Chisholm had been a feature of the Randwick racing scene for a generation. Born at Wollogorang, Breadalbane, in February 1858, his father had been one of the landed Goulburn pioneers. Educated at the King’s School, Parramatta, young Harry started out as a stock and station agent in Goulburn before coming to Sydney to consolidate his fortune. Impeccably connected, it was in 1886 that he had married Margaret, the daughter of Alexander Mackellar of Goulburn, and the sister of the A.J.C. Starter, H. L. Mackellar. The marriage produced two sons and a daughter, Sheila, who matured into a famous society beauty. In the years immediately before World War I, Sheila Chisholm was one of the “bright young things” that briefly illuminated the Members’ Reserve at the annual A.J.C. Spring and Autumn Meetings as she paraded in the latest fashions. She later married Lord Loughborough, whom she met while nursing in Cairo during the Great War. The marriage, unhappy as it was, gave her entree into British high society and the ultimately thrice-married beauty would even become the one-time concubine of the future King George VI. After the War, as Lady Loughborough, Sheila would dazzle English racegoers too, and only recently has become the subject of a biography by Robert Wainwright, “Sheila: The Australian Beauty Who Bewitched British Society”.
But I digress, so let’s get back to Sheila’s father. Harry Chisholm became a member of the A.J.C. in 1882 and first became a committeeman in 1895, the same year in which he founded the famous Sydney bloodstock firm that bore his name. The business flourished and in 1912 none other than Ken Austin joined the business, ultimately becoming a partner in 1917. Chisholm had remained a long-term committeeman of the A.J.C. right up to the time of his death and often acted as chairman of the club, particularly during the extended period that Colin Stephen was overseas. He had much to do with the development of both Randwick and Warwick Farm as racecourses during his 32-year tenure on the committee. Harry Chisholm died on 10th June 1927 at Lewisham Hospital. In August 1927, A.J.C. committee elections were held to determine a new committee, including for the vacancy created by Chisholm’s death.
Once again, the result emphasised the fact that once any man was elected to the A.J.C. committee in those days, he was difficult to shift. The nine members of the old committee were re-elected, and L. G. Rouse took the vacant spot created by Harry Chisholm’s death. The two defeated candidates were A. W. Thompson and E. J. Watt. The interest in the election was scarcely as great as anticipated, with only 976 votes being cast out of a membership of 1500. The fact that 36 votes were informal suggested that the A.J.C. then, as now, has its share of members whose intelligence scarcely entitled them to a vote. However, at least by electing Leslie Rouse the club had replaced one experienced racing administrator with another. Leslie Rouse as well as being Keeper of the Australian Stud Book, a position he had held since September 1913, had also served the club in the capacity of a judge and a stipendiary steward.
Winalot’s rise to fame coincided with the rise to fame of his Derby jockey, Stan Davidson. Once in a while on the Turf, there happens to come along an apprentice who from his very first ride in a race, is clearly destined for big things. Sometimes the big things happen but the stellar career predicted, is never quite realised. Such was the case with William Stanford Davidson. Born in 1908 the son of a single mother at Tenterfield, a historic town in the rolling New England region of N.S.W., Davidson grew up in the saddle on his grandfather’s farm and was a prize-winning show rider in the Glen Innes district. It was at the age of fourteen, through the good offices of a mutual friend, that he became apprenticed to the prominent Newcastle trainer, R. L. (Ray) Cashman. At the age of thirty-seven, Cashman’s best training years still lay ahead of him with the likes of a Doncaster Handicap (1931 Sir Christopher), Sydney Cup (1937 Mestoravon) and Epsom Handicap (1955 Hans), but the years of Davidson’s apprenticeship were to be profitable for him indeed.
A natural, Davidson had his first official race mount in January 1923 and rode his first winner when Sand Gun scored in a Maitland Novice the following month. Thereafter, the lad’s rise was to be meteoric. He lost his apprentice’s allowance so quickly that many never knew that he ever had one. Davidson’s fame soon spread to Sydney. In September 1923 at the Tattersall’s meeting, Davidson rode his first feature winner when he led all the way on Barosca in the A.J.C. Spring Handicap for Ascot trainer, William Munson. The horse was racing first-up after being off the scene for five months but the stable didn’t forget to support him in the ring. Such was the confidence reposed in the young boy in the saddle. Already the holes in Davidson’s stirrup leathers had been shortened as his self-esteem burgeoned. A couple of weeks after that Randwick success, we find Davidson riding four of the seven winners at the September meeting of the Boolaroo Racing Club. Hardly a northern race meeting went by in those days at which the lad didn’t ride at least one winner, regularly saluting the judge at places like Gosford, Singleton, Newcastle, Heddon, Maitland, Tamworth, Armidale and Boolaroo. Back at Randwick for the Tattersall’s meeting at the end of December, Davidson landed the Carrington Stakes on Tessie.
Blessed with a knack for jumping his horses smartly from the machine, prominent Victorian owners such as John Wren and ‘Prince’ Baillieu clamoured for his services on their lightweight chances in the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap. Ray Cashman had much to do with Davidson’s early success, as he freely permitted the boy to attend race meetings far afield while legging up inferior jockeys on his own horses in the Newcastle district. A winning double at Warwick Farm in December 1925 resulted in Davidson securing an almost full book of mounts at the A.J.C. Summer Meeting including Highlander for Pat Nailon in the Summer Cup. The 1925-26 racing season saw Davidson finish with 32 winners on racecourses in the Newcastle district including Singleton, as well as the same number of winners on metropolitan courses, which resulted in him finishing third on the Sydney Jockeys’ List behind Jim Munro and Jack Toohey. Not bad for an eighteen-year-old apprentice based in Newcastle!
If the calendar year 1927 belonged to any jockey in Australia, it surely belonged to Stan Davidson. At the January Anniversary Meeting at Randwick, he won the A.J.C. Adrian Knox Stakes on the Bill Kelso-trained Persuasion. At the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, as we have seen, the wettest on record, Davidson not only won the Easter Stakes on Jocelyn for trainer George Price but the Sydney Cup on Piastoon for the popular Longreach grazier and sportsman, Rowley Edkins. Bill Kelso trained the Queensland galloper for that Sydney Cup and he got into the race with just 7 st. 12lb. Davidson was surprised when Kelso instructed him to take Piastoon to the front from the barrier rise and try to lead all the way. Kelso reassured the eighteen-year-old apprentice: “Don’t worry. I’ll take responsibility.” Davidson did as he was told and in the slowest-run Sydney Cup since the lightweight Scotch Artillery scored in 1915 Davidson and Piastoon had three-quarters of a length to spare over the champion three-year-old Limerick at the winning post. As he rode back to scale to greet Kelso, Davidson’s expressionless face was instructive for any budding poker player. The lad’s striking form continued at the two-day Newcastle Cup meeting in late May. On the first day when he rode in six of the seven races, Davidson scored a double. And then on the second day, he rode five winners and a third from six races including winning the Newcastle Cup on Horton Gag.
Musket, covering that Newcastle Cup meeting for the Sydney Mail wrote in his column: “Patting jockeys on the back too effusively sometimes does more harm than good, for unless a boy is well-balanced mentally, he wants a size or two larger in hats after reading the eulogies which some writers indulge in on his ‘wonderful balance,’ his ‘perfect poise,’ and his ‘vigorous finish’. Young Stan Davidson, however, does not strike one as of the swelled head brigade and is deserving of a full measure of praise for his skilful riding during the two days…At country meetings where sometimes the fields all day comprise two or three runners, one jockey has now and again rode (sic) every winner; but I doubt if any rider at an important fixture, where fields are large and quality well represented, has ever surpassed Davidson’s record of Saturday last. He is a most unassuming boy, sticks closely to his profession – that is, goes to bed early, and is always on the track at daylight to ride any horse short of a jockey – and is quite the idol of backers in the northern districts, many of whom back Davidson’s mounts only.” All courses came alike to Davidson, and at the Armidale Cup Meeting that same year, he partnered with nine of the nineteen winners at the three-day fixture.
Stan Davidson completed his five years apprenticeship with Cashman in early July 1927. The end of that same month saw him head the Sydney Jockeys’ List for the 1926-27 season with 58½ winners on metropolitan and provincial courses, a comfortable 19 wins ahead of Ted Bartle in second place. When wins on country racetracks were included, and Davidson had finished third on the Newcastle Jockeys’ List, the youngster had ridden more than 100 winners in the season. It was a remarkable performance by an apprentice that wouldn’t be equalled again until Jack Thompson emerged upon the scene. One of Davidson’s wins that season had been aboard Winalot when that colt broke through for his maiden victory in May. So impressed was the trainer George Price that Davidson was promised the Derby mount come the first day in October if Winalot progressed as expected.
The year 1927 witnessed some other changes in the racing scene. It was a year that saw the introduction of occasional races at Randwick and Warwick Farm confined to apprentices who had not ridden ten winners. The move was prompted by representations to the A.J.C. by the Breeders, Owners and Trainers’ Association to improve the overall standards of horsemanship in Sydney. Another innovation to Sydney racecourses during the year was a motor coach, built especially to transport racehorses. Placed on the roads by the Licensed Motor Transport Company, it made its first appearance at Moorefield in February. This means of conveyance had been in vogue in England and France for some time, and those Sydney trainers such as Frank Marsden who were quick to patronise it were unanimous as to its advantages over train travel.
The issue that continued to generate the most discussion in racing circles, however, was the extent of illegal off-course betting and the prospect of licensing such betting shops to at least harvest some public revenue from their activities. While problems still plagued the Totalisator, it seemed that the dual system of bookmaker and Tote satisfied most racegoers and few people were now advocating the machine as the sole medium of speculation. Of course, everyone acknowledged that a degree of illicit betting occurred – without perhaps ever realising the full extent of the problem – but most believed such toleration was preferable to a break-out of gambling fever that licensing betting shops would engender. Moreover, heaven forbid, it was argued that the proliferation of off-course betting shops might encourage women to gamble! Such was the paternalism and patronisation that animated the authorities of the age. But no one could dispute that racing was in a healthy position. Perhaps a measure of this health was the fact that the A.J.C. enjoyed 612 nominations for the Derby in 1927; this compared to only 349 for the English Derby of the same year.
Seventeen horses faced the starter for the A.J.C. Derby, a record number of starters for the race. The large field was a testimony to the belief that, with the injury to New Zealand crack, Agrion, who had been brought across to Sydney by Dick Mason but hadn’t raced, and the defection of Royal Feast, no outstanding colt was out that season. It was a belief that was about to be proved spectacularly false. Winalot did progress towards the Derby as George Price had expected. The flashy son of Rossendale, now racing in the interests of the executors of Harry Chisholm’s estate, emerged as the leading contender for the race when he finished strongly to win a mile welter at Randwick at the September Tattersall’s Meeting. Winalot then confirmed it a week later with a gritty victory in the Rosehill Guineas after being a conspicuous last early. Stan Davidson was in the saddle on both occasions and had naturally retained the ride in the classic. Rare indeed was it for one so young to be entrusted with the Derby favourite.
Best backed to beat him was Merry Mint, a well-grown bay gelding by Catmint, who had easily won the Hobartville Stakes and ran second to Limerick in the Chelmsford Stakes in soft going on the same card that Winalot had won the welter. Hailing from New Zealand, Merry Mint headed the Kiwi assault on the classic. However, the gelding had blotted his copybook somewhat when he ran the unplaced favourite in the Hawkesbury Spring Handicap at his most recent appearance. Statesman, owned and trained at Randwick by William Kelso junior, was a horse conspicuous in the Derby betting rather more on reputation than actual deeds. In nine starts he had only managed to win once – a weak division of a race for two-year-olds in the autumn. Already he had been supported in Melbourne Cup betting by his stable, with nice prices taken soon after weights were released, an unusual practice for Kelso. However, Statesman’s early-season three-year-old form had proved disappointing. Although Kelso had judged him worthy of a place in the company of both the Chelmsford Stakes and Rosehill Guineas, he had failed to flatter on either occasion.
Also included in the Derby line-up was the expensive Sion, and it was jockey Harold Jones who sported the famous Moss jacket of “green and black halves, black cap”. However, thus far the strapping colt had failed to justify Moss’s faith either in the sales or the betting ring, being still a maiden after twelve public appearances and some heavy stable support. Sion hadn’t made his racecourse debut the previous season until a December Nursery at Randwick on the Saturday before Christmas but on that occasion, Moss’s stocking remained empty. Taken to Melbourne in the autumn, Sion was backed heavily by Moss for both the V.A.T.C. Federal Stakes and Alma Stakes at Caulfield but failed to deliver. Clearly, a suspicion began to arise that there was rather less to him than met the eye although he later ran a respectable placing in both the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Sion’s best run as a three-year-old had been his placing in the A.J.C. Hobartville Stakes.
Another expensive Valais colt in the field was Glenariff, who as we have seen had cost John McCaughey, 3800 guineas as a yearling before he made a present of the colt to his wife. Glenariff had only won one race, a Rosehill Nursery (5 ½ f) in mid-February in a field of twenty-four and with just 7 st. 9lb in the saddle. While it was Bill Kelso who had bid for him as a yearling and trained him for his only win, a fallout between the trainer and John McCaughey had seen McCaughey’s team of horses since transferred to Stan Lamond senior at Victoria Park. McCaughey had objected to the way that some jockeys had ridden his horses for Kelso. The latter wouldn’t admit that there were any grounds for either complaint or suspicion and had informed McCaughey in his blunt and succinct manner that if he wasn’t satisfied then he’d better take his horses elsewhere, which McCaughey had done at the end of April. No doubt Kelso was hoping that if his own Statesman couldn’t win the classic, at least the horse would finish in front of Glenariff. The best of the three fillies in the Derby was Black Duchess, a daughter of Magpie, and much had been asked of her during her first season when she confronted the starter ten times, but at least a placing in the Hobartville Stakes ensured her of some support.
When Scobie delivered up Trivalve on Derby Day, the horse hadn’t raced since the autumn. Although he hadn’t grown much, he was now a more robust colt, and there was a lot of stable confidence about him. Before coming over to Randwick, Scobie had galloped Trivalve in a private trial at Moonee Valley. The horse had covered the mile and a half, outside one hurdle, in 2 minutes 40 seconds, a gallop that convinced both Scobie and Lewis that the Derby was theirs for the taking. An astute observer might also have noticed that Scobie had taken the unusual precaution of nominating the colt for the A.J.C. Craven Plate, a race in which the stable very rarely indulged. The trainer’s primary concern with Trivalve was the prospect of a soft track on Derby Day. After the rains that had deluged Sydney the previous Easter ruining Trivalve’s chance in the rich juvenile races at Randwick, Scobie must have had his heart in his mouth as the ominous night skies opened up again on Derby Eve.
However, Saturday dawned fine, and the track remained remarkably unaffected. Derby Day got off to a rather sensational start when seven horses – more than half the field – fell on the flat in the Hurdle, the opening event on the card. One of the riders, Maynard (Ted) Webster, was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital with a suspected damaged spine. It turned out to be far less serious and while the injury eventually curtailed his riding career, Webster survived to become a successful trainer at Rosehill. In the Derby itself, Winalot maintained his favouritism in early course betting, but strong backing for Merry Mint saw him go the post as the joint-favourite with the chestnut. Trivalve was well supported by the big-betting battalions behind the Scobie stable, while Statesman shortened from tens into sixes in late course-betting. Sion met with some modest enquiries. The overnight rains, however, did serve to reduce the attendance on that first day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting when only 78,000 people attended in comparison with the 89,000 of the previous year. One change that patrons did notice was the reversal of policy on Totalisator dividends.
Just a week before the meeting started, the N.S.W. Government abandoned the unpopular innovation of providing for a return of at least the amount invested on each placegetter on the machine. The practice had often returned odds that were extremely poor in comparison with bookmakers. Accordingly, the Government reverted to the old system, with the alteration that instead of 60% going to first and 20% each to second and third, after deduction of the customary 12½ %, the division became 50, 30 and 20%. This reversion at least enabled patrons to be again able to form an approximate idea of their likely return on a successful wager, and if an outsider were to win, the pool wouldn’t be depleted to cover investments on the other place-getters. Nonetheless, those of the betting public who saw virtue in the abandoned practice were afforded a smile when the backers of Limerick, in the weight-for-age Spring Stakes on the paddock Totalisator, lost 1/6d on each 10/- they invested.
The 1927 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
The big field for the Derby suggested the likelihood of a fast gallop and the outsiders Padicol and Maltfern did their best to deliver, cutting out the first six furlongs in 74 ½ seconds. Following the pacemakers at the six-furlong mark were both Winalot and Merry Mint with Chromium, Trivalve, Sacedon and Sion close up, while both Statesman and Black Duchess were conceding the two leaders many lengths. After making a quick burst coming to the half-mile, Sion held a slight lead over Winalot who went with him, followed by Chromium, with Merry Mint poised behind enjoying a glorious run next to the rails. Trivalve was placed just behind this group in the company of Maltfern and Ragazzo. Although Sion was still with Winalot upon entering the straight, he compounded shortly after that.
At the Leger, Merry Mint challenged Winalot while Lewis was grinding out a challenge from Trivalve, who was coming under heavy punishment. In the end, Merry Mint failed to stay, not a shortcoming of which Trivalve could ever be accused, and he collared Winalot within the shadows of the judge’s box to win going away by a half-neck. Lewis’s vigour with the whip for almost the length of the Randwick straight perhaps owed more to the style of Wackford Squeers rather than Tom Hales and the finest tradition of Australian knights of the pigskin, but then Trivalve was a horse that needed a lot of persuading. And no jockey riding used a longer whip than Lewis. Black Duchess made up quite a lot of ground to fill the minor placing.
There were many prepared to blame Stan Davidson for going too soon on Winalot. Their complaint was that Davidson made too much use of Winalot when he went with Sion and rushed him to the front at the half-mile, but the chestnut’s trainer, George Price, wasn’t numbered among the critics. At the time, young Davidson was on the outside of several horses and he thought it advisable to get in front and cross to the rails. Fifty yards from the post Winalot seemed sure to win but he failed by half a neck to withstand Trivalve’s challenge. Interviewed after the race, the diplomatic George Price said: “I never give a good jockey any instructions. You can’t tell how a race is going to be run, and I leave it to them to do their best. Still, if I had given Davidson any orders, they would have been to do exactly as he did. There were some squibs in the race, and to escape any possible trouble from them I would have told him to go to the front at the half-mile, especially as I had every confidence in Winalot as a stayer. I haven’t the least fault to find with Davidson.”
Much of the credit for the victory belonged to Bob Lewis, who though just two months shy of his forty-ninth birthday, showed yet again that age hadn’t wearied him nor the years condemned. It was the jockey’s fourth A.J.C. Derby win and followed up on those achieved with Maltster (1901), Hautvilliers (1902) and Sylvanite (1904). Moreover, all four had been trained by the peerless James Scobie. Inclusive of the breeder’s premium, the race was worth £7,301 to Ernest Clarke – the most valuable Derby prize given up to that time in Australia. Considering the overnight rain, the time for the run of 2 minutes and 33 seconds was particularly good. After twenty-six years, the old firm of Scobie and Lewis was back in the Derby business at last! And it wasn’t about to end just yet.
The Derby was Trivalve’s only appearance at the Randwick Spring Meeting. He declined his engagement in the Craven Plate and quickly returned to Melbourne where he ran a respectable second a week later in the Caulfield Guineas to the expensive Avant Courier. Winalot, in contrast, started twice more at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, finishing a respectable second in the Craven Plate behind Limerick on Wednesday and unplaced as the 6/4 favourite in the Clibborn Stakes on the following Saturday. Both Trivalvle and Winalot were then laid out for a return clash in the Victoria Derby. While Trivalve thrived after his return to Melbourne from Sydney, Winalot was troubled with his shelly feet on Flemington’s hard tracks and seemed to have some trouble adjusting to the reverse way of galloping. While James Scobie and his associates helped themselves in backing Trivalve to take out the Victoria Derby-Melbourne Cup double, George Price was far more circumspect as regards Winalot. In course betting on the Victoria Derby, Trivalve firmed into 4/7 favouritism, ahead of Avant Courier at 5/1 and Winalot easy at 6/1. The others were quoted at 20/1 and more.
As the seven Derby candidates were leaving the Flemington weighing enclosure, Syd Ferguson, the trainer of Sacedon, jokingly suggested that James Scobie should ‘save’ £100 with him. “No, I won’t do that,” said the veteran, “but I’ll tell you what I will do; I’ll give you £100 to let Sacedon go to the front as hard as he can from the jump; if the pace is on all the way, Trivalve can’t be beaten.” Ferguson smiled and shook his head. As he well knew, Sacedon’s only chance – and that a poor one – was in a slowly run race. Then, as Scobie turned to take up his position in the stand, an attendant carrying the presentation blue ribbon scurried along and asked him where Mr Clarke would be found in the event of Trivalve winning. With a perfectly straight face, Scobie told the man he would have to go a very long way to find him seeing that he was either already in New Zealand or on his way there. Scobie added: “But never mind, you can give me the ribbon now,” he said, holding out his hand. The attendant drew back in surprise, believing Scobie was in earnest. “Oh, well, never mind; take good care of it and I’ll come along and get it after the race,” said Scobie. And he kept his word!
In the classic, Lewis was again hard at work on him over half a mile from home, and it wasn’t until entering the Flemington straight that he began to take any ground off the leaders. But the event had been conducted at a fair tempo and Trivalve finished full of running to win by three lengths in a time of 2 minutes 33 seconds. Statesman, who had finished second last in the W. S. Cox Plate the previous week, surprised many by running second, just in front of Valicare’s brother, Avant Courier. In finishing runner-up, Statesman confirmed that staying was his forte, something he would establish conclusively on the same course but over a half-mile longer on the first Tuesday of November the following year. Remarkably, it was Bob Lewis’s eighth Victoria Derby thereby eclipsing the previous record that he had shared with the great Tom Hales. If Trivalve had failed, Scobie would have been the most shocked man at Flemington. Winalot’s failure was attributed to the hard ground and he had been a bit scratchy in his action since coming south, albeit not as scratchy as those loyal Sydney sportsmen that had supported him in the betting ring.
It was a hard ride for Lewis, who earned his money on Trivalve at any time, but made more so that day because he had already begun a wasting regimen to satisfy Trivalve’s Cup weight. Lewis was widely expected to declare about two pounds overweight on the colt for the big handicap on the following Tuesday but with steady fasting the jockey was able to go to scale at precisely 7 st. 6lb. James Scobie held three chances in that 1927 Melbourne Cup field, as apart from Trivalve, he also saddled Pilliewinkie and Star d’Or. But Trivalve, running as the third favourite in the race, was the hope of the side. Meanwhile, both Winalot and Statesman also honoured their Cup engagements, but they were neglected in the betting and went off at 200/1 and 33/1 respectively.
Lewis declined rides in early races on Cup Day and even managed to have a snooze in the jockeys’ room before the main event. In the Cup, Trivalve’s stoutness of heart and fighting qualities once again enabled him to pull off the prize. A furlong from home, Silvius appeared to have the race won. However, with vigorous riding from Lewis, Trivalve was going right away on the post, his one-length-winning margin established in a matter of strides. Silvius and Son o’ Mine filled the minor placings with Statesman a good sixth while Winalot finished in the back division. It was an exhausting ride for Lewis, particularly after the wasting, and Cup night he declined to attend Wirths’ Olympia to receive the famous gold-mounted whip traditionally presented to the winning jockey. Instead, Lewis sent his brother-in-law, Frank Bullock along.
It was the fourth Melbourne Cup for both Scobie and Lewis, but the first for the owner, Ernest Clarke. It might have been his first, but Clarke wasn’t there to see it. Each year around Cup time the wealthy owner travelled to a favourite stream on the South Island of New Zealand for his annual fishing trip. Even the prospect of a Derby and Cup double at Flemington couldn’t deflect him from this beloved hobby. In the wake of the Melbourne Cup, Scobie had no hesitation in declaring Trivalve to be the finest staying three-year-old he had trained. It was a claim that Lewis echoed, although he rated La Carabine overall the better stayer. Never a commanding colt in appearance, at first glance Trivalve gave the impression of being on the small side, although he was just a shade under 16 hands. Nonetheless, he was a sturdy individual with a deep girth. Perhaps he was a little short in the neck, but he had great power behind the saddle and was blessed with a long stride seen at its best on the long stretches of Randwick and Flemington.
Following a spell at Glenroy, Trivalve resumed racing at the Flemington Autumn Meeting and seemed as good as ever. He won the V.R.C. St. Leger as he pleased, as the odds of 20/1 laid on him suggested he would – leading all the way and running the third-fastest time in the history of the race, thereby giving Lewis his eighth victory in that classic, too. Later in the week, he won the weight-for-age Governor’s Plate and the King’s Plate starting at long odds-on in both. The Sydney racing public now keenly looked forward to Trivalve’s likely clash with Limerick at weight-for-age at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting as well as a renewal of his rivalry with Winalot, who since the spring, had sustained a change of owner, trainer and jockey.
So disappointing had Winalot been at the V.R.C. Spring Meeting that upon the colt’s return to Sydney, he was put up for auction through H. Chisholm and Company, despite trainer George Price’s best efforts to dissuade Harry Chisholm’s two sons from doing so. In late November, the three-year-old had been knocked down for 2100 guineas to the bloodstock agents, H. P. Evans and Company, who were acting on behalf of E. K. White. No stranger to metropolitan courses, White was a Sussex-street merchant with a timber milling enterprise on the N.S.W. North Coast and extensive landholdings around the Gosford region. In the past, he had occasionally paid high prices for horses in training, such as the New Zealand sprinter Initiative and the local hurdler Minterne. In fact, White paid £3,000 for Minterne on the eve of an A.J.C. Steeplechase in a deal that the Truth newspaper questioned, only for the horse to fall in the race itself. Subsequently, White sold Minterne and then saw the horse go on and win an Australian Steeplechase in another man’s colours. That saga was typical of White’s misadventures on the racecourse up to that time. Winalot, however, was to break that mould in a rather spectacular fashion.
Writing in the Sydney Mail subsequent to the sale, Musket observed: “If his new owner ever has him in the same shape as when he won the Rosehill Guineas in September, he will have a cheap horse, for Winalot at his best is a clinking good galloper.” Rather than geld him, which was a consideration, his new owner sent the colt to Messrs Cornwell and Ridge’s farm at Richmond for a brief spell before bringing him back into the Randwick stables of J. W. Cook in early January to be prepared for the A.J.C. St Leger and Sydney Cup. Cook, himself, was rather hoping that Winalot might provide him with some small measure of compensation for having seen Amounis sold out of his stables just a season or two before because at the time he was thought not to be top class.
E. K. White certainly got value for his money from Winalot. Looking as burly as a country bailiff, the son of Rossendale resumed racing at Warwick Farm a week before Trivalve came back to win the V.R.C. St Leger. Unlike Trivalve, Winalot failed to attract the judge in his comeback race, the Glenfield Handicap over six furlongs with the hurdle jockey W. H. Baker making up most of his handicap weight of 10 st. 5lb. Winalot missed the jump and trailed the field most of the way, and finished in front of only one horse. However, it was noticeable that Baker never knocked him about. E. K. White then set about coupling Winalot for the Sydney Cup with several of the leading Doncaster fancies including Aorangi and Simeon’s Fort. If this flurry of support seemed unusual given Winalot’s unimpressive comeback performance at Warwick Farm, it was largely explained a month later at the same course but over a longer distance when Winalot stepped out for the Warwick Farm Autumn Cup. Handicapped on 8 st. 3lb and with Jack Toohey in the irons, the Rossendale colt raced away to win by three lengths from Valparaiso and Amusement. Such was the performance that Winalot then became the popular fancy for the Sydney Cup.
Before the Sydney Cup, of course, came the A.J.C. St Leger and a return clash with Trivalve. However, on the Friday night before the A.J.C. St Leger and the first day of the Randwick Spring Meeting, the heavens opened and more than two inches of rain fell on the Randwick course. The track was so heavy on Easter Saturday that the committee held a meeting at an early hour to consider a postponement, although, in the end, it was decided to go ahead. Only three ran for the A.J.C. Red Riband and Trivalve, on the strength of his Melbourne form, went off as the 1/2 favourite. If punters had forgotten the lesson of the previous autumn and Trivalve’s aversion to rain-affected going, they were certainly reminded of it during the race. After Lewis tried to lead all the way on the Melbourne Cup winner, Jocelyn, a filly also by Rossendale, ran past him three furlongs from home. Turning into the straight, Winalot went after Jocelyn, who put up a magnificent fight while Trivalve dropped out hopelessly in the rear. Over the final furlong, the two leaders disputed every inch, and it was not until within fifty yards of the judge that the filly struck her colours and allowed Winalot to score by three-quarters of a length, with Trivalve humbled some twenty lengths in areas. So, the Kingsfield stallion Rossendale scored a rare quinella in the A.J.C. Red Riband!
Two days later, on Sydney Cup Monday, the weather had cleared although the track was still on the slow side. Before a crowd conservatively estimated at 77,000 people, Winalot cruised home by three-and-a-half lengths after being well-placed throughout, although, in Trivalve’s and Limerick’s absence, it was widely regarded as the worst field to contest the race in many an autumn. Cup Day was particularly rewarding for the trainer genial Joe Cook. Not only did he take out the Sydney Cup, but his own horse Mendit won the First Steeplechase. It was a memorable day for jockey Jack Toohey, too, for he rode a treble, not only partnering with Cook’s pair but also riding Greenline to win the Flying Handicap. Owner E. K. White cleared well over £10,000 on straight-out betting and feature doubles with the Doncaster winner Simeon’s Fort, although Aorangi would have given him an even more profitable result. In stakes alone, Winalot had now won White £8,444 since giving 2100 guineas for the horse just five months before.
In winning the Sydney Cup, Winalot became the first three-year-old to do so since John Moore captured the race with a rank outsider, Moorilla, in 1911. Moreover, no three-year-old had won both the A.J.C. St Leger and the Sydney Cup since Wallace did the double in 1896. On the last day of that A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, Winalot ran the minor placing – beaten a head and a long head by Limerick and Valparaiso – in the King’s Cup run under quality conditions. It was often said that Jack Toohey was a 5lb better rider at Randwick than anywhere else and his horsemanship on Winalot during that week suggested that there might be some truth in the quip after all. While the week had been a triumph for Winalot, the same couldn’t be said about Trivalve. As it transpired, it wasn’t just the soft going that had brought about his failure in the A.J.C. St Leger. Trivalve had contracted indigestion during that week and was beginning to go right off his form.
Evidence that all was not well, came on the following Wednesday when again Trivalve was defeated at odds-on in the weight-for-age Cumberland Stakes over two miles, and this time on the much firmer ground. Scobie relieved the horse of his other engagement at the meeting and afforded him a brief let-up. He believed Trivalve was back to his best when he decided to travel to Adelaide and contest the S.A.J.C. St. Leger at Morphettville. As we have seen earlier in this history, Scobie was fond of running his horses at the good South Australian meetings. Alas, it proved to be Trivalve’s last race when he sprung a tendon during the running and finished an inglorious third behind some rather ordinary animals. Always a trifle heavy at the point of the shoulder, the injury prevented Trivalve from being trained further although Scobie didn’t give up on him easily. Accordingly, the season that had begun with a bang ended with a whimper. Nonetheless, Trivalve’s slew of wins resulted in Ernest Clarke becoming Australia’s leading owner for 1927-28 with £29,350 – a record that was to last until the 1950-51 season when Ossie Porter exceeded it.
One man who derived great satisfaction from Trivalve’s remarkable three-year-old season was Jack Brewer. In the 1918 chapter of this chronicle concerning Gloaming, I related the Jack Brewer story and how it was he that was entrusted with Ernest Clarke’s £5,000 commission that saw The Welkin and that band of English broodmares come into the country including Light, the dam of Gloaming, and Teppo, the granddam of Trivalve. Whereas Brewer had selected The Welkin for Clarke, Bullock, a protege of Brewer, had selected Cyklon. Brewer had always been disappointed that Ernest Clarke and his old friend from hurdling days, James Scobie, had been deprived respectively of owning and training Gloaming. But in Trivalve the two men got more than a measure of satisfaction in having a dual Derby winner and a Melbourne Cup to boot. After his return to training in Australia in January 1912, Jack Brewer was never really again in full harness.
Brewer had acquired considerable pastoral interests and superintending a large stable of racehorses was no longer a priority in his life. To use his own blunt words to a sporting journalist upon his leaving England: “I have been in England eight years, and have made enough money to enable me to sit down and watch someone else do the training. I want to live in a climate that suits me, and that is why I’m a passenger for Melbourne.” Sometimes he did train a horse or two in the years that followed, including the English galloper Eudorus for Lionel Robinson and William Clark, but more often than not his horses were trained either by the brothers Cecil and Frank Godby or by D. J. Price. Ernest Clarke would have been happy to give him a horse but Brewer wasn’t interested. And Brewer raced some decent horses in his twilight years including the likes of Finsbury, Laveuse, Saluki and The Cad. In this respect, Brewer was a lot like Dick Wootton once back in Australia. Each man was content to race a few horses and get as much fun out of the racing game as possible without being too deeply involved.
Jack Brewer and Dick Wootton were each shrewd horsemen and good friends and when Brewer returned to Australia it was to manage the Kiacatoo station that the two men had bought in partnership on the Lachlan River in western N.S.W. Brewer’s own father had once owned Kiacatoo but it wasn’t long before Brewer sold out to Wootton and bought East Merriwee, close to the town of Condobolin, and ultimately, in April 1921, Tuppal station in the Riverina. Jack Brewer died in his sixty-third year at his home ‘Langdale’ in Elsternwick, Melbourne, in April 1931. His widow survived him but the marriage was childless. Just for the record, at Brewer’s death, the N.S.W. portion of his estate was valued at £39,939 and his Victorian estate at £33,159. Not bad for a one-time hurdle jockey but of course, he had been born into money.
Trivalve was retired to the Melton Stud, standing at an initial fee of 50 guineas and effectively succeeding Cyklon there. Alas, he proved a profound disappointment to Scobie and Clarke, who had entertained such high hopes for his progeny. One of the problems at Melton was that most of the mares there boasted the same blood as his own i.e. The Welkin and Cyklon. Nor were his services rushed by visiting mares. His son, Supervalve, did run a dead-heat for the Port Adelaide Cup while Nappatara proved useful, and other horses like Bivalve and Pulsator won in town, but overall Trivalve was a failure. The decline of the Melton fortunes after the heady days of The Welkin and Cyklon, together with the depressed level of prize money during the Great Depression of the mid-thirties, eventually led Ernest Clarke to disperse the stud in April 1935. It was the end of an era. At the time of the Melton Park dispersal, Scobie could recollect only ever buying three yearlings for Ernest Clarke in more than thirty years of training for the owner viz. Emir, Charles Stuart and Eye Glass. The first two have already been mentioned in this chronicle, while the latter won him two Adelaide Cups. All of the other horses that Scobie prepared for Clarke during his lifetime had come directly out of the Melton paddocks.
It was on Wednesday, 3rd April 1935, at 11 a.m. that the dispersal sale of the famous Melton Stud began and an era in Australian bloodstock breeding came to a close. W. C. Yuille and Company conducted the sale. Trains were met at the Melton station and cars left the office of the firm, 489 Bourke-street, Melbourne, at 9 a.m. to transport clients there. The attendance at the ringside numbered at least six hundred and was representative of the entire Australian bloodstock industry. Conspicuous among them were Percy Miller (Kia-Ora Stud, Hunter Valley), Clive Inglis, Doug Webster, Otway Falkiner, Fred Tennant (Ormsby Grange Stud, Salisbury), Keith Angas, Les Aldridge (Kismet Stud, Sunbury), C. J. Chisholm (Khancoban Stud, N.S.W.), Alex Hunter (Northwood Park Stud, Seymour), Sol Green (Underbank Stud, Bacchus Marsh), Guy Raymond (St Albans Stud, Geelong), Ted Underwood (Warlaby Stud, Oaklands Junction) and John Donald (Westmere Stud, Wanganui).
Trivalve brought the trifling sum of 325 guineas, offered by E. J. H. Shaw of South Australia to serve him as a station sire. Trivalve later reputedly died of snakebite in the Northern Territory – a far cry from the grandeur of Royal Randwick on Derby Day. Sic transit Gloria. Gilt Edge, a son of Valais, who cost a record price of 5000 guineas as a yearling, was the other stallion standing at Melton at the time; the oldest of his progeny were two-year-olds, and he was knocked down for 600 guineas to Fred Tennant of South Australia. Gilt Edge proved a handy stallion and sired two stakeswinners in Lovable (V.A.T.C. Debutante Stakes) and Securities (V.R.C. Byron Moore Stakes) as well as a number of other useful gallopers. However, when one looks back through the yellowed pages of the old catalogue of that Melton Stud dispersal, it is difficult not to conclude that, as prepotent as some of the maternal bloodlines had once been, the motherlode had largely been exhausted. Moreover, it seemed that the introduction of the rather ordinary blood of Cyklon had debased the value of so much of the broodmare stock. To the extent that Cyklon sired good broodmares, they generally descended from that great taproot mare, Teppo in the maternal line.
Of all the keen sportsmen and bloodstock breeders in attendance that day at Melton, Alec Creswick proved the shrewdest. History would demonstrate that there were only about four broodmares worth having out of the twenty-three knocked down and Creswick got three of them viz. Mistral, Tricycle and Welosia. Admittedly, they didn’t come cheaply costing 625 guineas, 450 guineas and 410 guineas respectively. But all three when subsequently mated with Manitoba, Creswick’s recently imported English stallion standing at The Nook Stud, would each throw one multiple high-class stakes winner. Mistral, a rising ten-year-old daughter of Cyklon and Deneb would go on to drop Zonda, a brilliant sprinter who won a Futurity Stakes, Oakleigh Plate, Newmarket Handicap and Alister Clark Stakes. Tricycle, a rising eight-year-old daughter of Cyklon and Trey, would go on to drop Three Wheeler, winner of the V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes, Oaks and Newmarket Handicap. And Welosia, a rising twelve-year-old daughter of The Welkin would go on to drop Kelos, who also won a V.R.C.Wakeful Stakes and Newmarket Handicap. Curiously enough, the fourth broodmare worth buying that day was Trivalve’s dam, Trey. At the time she was in foal to Gilt Edge and a few months later she would drop Lovable who would go on to win the 1937 V.A.T.C. Debutante Stakes.
The land of the Melton Stud that, apart from Trivalve, had nourished such champions as Gloaming, Furious, Greenstead, and Thrice down the years, realised a price of only £17 an acre upon sale, bought by V.R.C. bookmaker, Vic Newhouse. Although carried on as a stud, it was on a much-limited scale relative to Clarke’s tenure. Newhouse intended to breed Clydesdales but commissioned the jockey Frank Bullock, who returned to England to ride a short time later, to purchase some suitable thoroughbred broodmares with which to re-stock the Melton paddocks. Melton lingered on as a thoroughbred stud for a number of years more, even for a time in the 1950s being owned by the notable jockeys, Edgar Britt and Harold Jones. The pair, who had formed such a close friendship in their riding days in India, stood the chestnut stallion Avignon there but didn’t enjoy much success.
Sadly, the glory days of Melton were effectively over. After the dispersal sale, Ernest Clarke continued to keep a few horses in training with Scobie, a practice he maintained right up to Scobie’s retirement from the Turf on the trainer’s 80th birthday in July 1940. As we shall see, one of those horses, Hua, proved to be outstanding and he went ever so close to emulating Trivalve’s Randwick Derby triumph. When Scobie eventually decided to lay down his stopwatch, Clarke also called it a day, after being one of the leading owners and breeders on the Australian Turf for nigh on forty years. Throughout his days as an owner, Scobie always trained Clarke’s horses, winning him more than £150,000 in prize money and most of the important races on the racing calendar. Ernest Clarke died at the age of 72 at his St Kilda residence in January 1941, less than four months after Scobie’s own death. The estate of E.E.D. Clarke was sworn for probate at £256,321, consisting of realty of £5,250 and personalty of £251,071 being left in trust for his widow and relatives. There were also assets in New South Wales and South Australia. By comparison, Scobie’s estate was valued for probate at £57,962.
A few years back I went in search of what was left of the famous Melton Stud. I located it at the southern end of the eponymous Clarkes Road, high on the riverbank adjacent to the Werribee River and Melton Reservoir. Any sporting pilgrim expecting to glimpse a grand homestead and well-grassed cultivated paddocks that might have greeted Lord and Lady Stonehaven back in January 1926 is in for a rude awakening. The Federation homestead, or rather, house, was and presumably still is, a squat, shabby, weatherboard residence with a hipped roof, brick chimney and front verandah flanked by two Sugar Gums. The original timber verandah had been replaced by brick and concrete.
Nearby the property and overlooking the river and the railway viaduct was the grave of The Welkin, marked by a granite headstone. The plain and understated inscription read: “The Welkin 1904-1925, a sire of many winners.” It is surrounded by a simple metal railing supported between turned timber posts. The stallion Cyklon, too, is reputed to be buried nearby, although there is no landmark acknowledging the location of his grave. Situated about 50 yards to the north of the house is a dilapidated weatherboard stallion box, the former residence of The Welkin. Around ten Sugar Gums mark the rough outline of the stallion’s original exercise yard. Another ramshackle group of outbuildings including a second stallion box, manager’s cottage, and yearling boxes and stables lie further north of the main residence together with a timber tank stand. I found it a melancholy scene when I reflected on what it must once have been.
The relationship between Scobie and Clarke is only two-thirds of the story of a triumvirate that came to dominate the Victorian Turf and beyond, for more than a quarter of a century. The third member of the team was, of course, jockey Bob Lewis. Trivalve was the eighteenth and last ride that Lewis enjoyed in the A.J.C. Derby. All told, he won the race four times and was runner-up on just as many occasions. He was successful in both his first and last rides in the race spanning some twenty-seven years. Lewis was apprenticed to that great horseman of the fin de siecle, Jack Brewer. Indeed, one of Brewer’s many claims to fame as a racing man was that both Bob Lewis and Frank Bullock served their apprenticeships with him at Caulfield. It is often forgotten that Lewis when only a youngster went to England with Brewer in 1899 and rode a few races in the Old Country but he couldn’t stand the cold of the place and left rather quickly. Despite Lewis winning virtually every race of note in Australia and some of them multiple times, Brewer always believed that returning home was the greatest mistake Lewis ever made.
In an interview with Bert Wolfe in 1928, Brewer observed: “He would have made more money in England in ten years than he made in thirty in Australia, and he would have had the joy of winning some of the greatest races in the world. From the moment he arrived in England, he began to grizzle and growl. First about the climate, then about the tracks, then about the horses, and when I found him howling in a corner by himself day after day, I knew that he was terribly homesick. There was only one thing to do, and that was to pack him back to Australia. With Frank Bullock it was different. He was a man when he left Australia, and he had experience on the Continent, riding in Austria, Roumania and Germany before he commenced to do much riding in England. Both were great riders – Bob still is – but they were entirely different in their methods. Bob was always vigorous and lively, while Frank cultivated the English style, and rode those pretty races that delight the Englishman, but are not favoured a great deal in Australia.”
Racing correspondents in the first quarter of the nineteenth century often drew a comparison between the relationship of Clarke, Scobie and Lewis and their domination of the Victorian Turf, and similar domination of a different Victorian Turf, that of England in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Lord Falmouth, Matt Dawson and Fred Archer. Nor is the comparison any less flattering to the former trio than to the latter. Scobie never failed to acknowledge the enormous contribution of Lewis to the fortunes of Pytchley Lodge.
In the 1929 publication ‘My Life on the Australian Turf’, Scobie described Lewis as “more of a friend than a servant”: “Lewis was a very great asset to me, especially in the preparation of horses for races like the Melbourne Cup. No jockey could compare with Bob in giving you information about a thoroughbred that he had ridden in a gallop. Moreover, he took very little out of a horse. By this, I mean that he always kept something in reserve, and, in fact, didn’t knock a mount about. At the end of a trial, a horse ridden by Lewis wouldn’t be half as exhausted as it would have been if almost any other boy had been in the saddle.”
Lewis held a retainer from Sir Rupert Clarke right up to the time of the baronet’s death in 1926, and although he never maintained an official retainer from Ernest Clarke, there was a tacit understanding that he would always be available to ride his horses. As we have seen throughout this narrative, during the most rewarding years of the Scobie reign, the Master of Pytchley Lodge would often send his team of horses nominated for the A.J.C. Spring and Autumn Meetings to Randwick with Lewis in charge, well ahead of his own arrival. Lewis would supervise the loading and unloading of the thoroughbreds from railway trains, settle them into stables and oversee their early track work.
In light of the above encomium from Scobie, it is sad to relate that for a time the Scobie-Lewis relationship soured rather badly. It is never easy for any sportsman to recognise that the time for retirement has arrived, particularly for one such as Bob Lewis who had defied Father Time rather longer than most. In my experience, I think it is best to retire when people ask ‘why?’ rather than ‘why not?’ It wasn’t the case with Lewis. In December 1933, James Scobie visited Sydney and arranged for the well-known apprentice Edgar Britt, who had only recently returned from partnering Winooka successfully in the United States, to do the stable’s riding at the forthcoming autumn meetings, and, upon completion of his apprenticeship, move to Melbourne and become the stable rider. When this news leaked out, the spectre of being usurped by a younger man bruised Lewis’ pride, and rather than be sacked, he sought to resign, leaving a letter to that effect at the Melbourne office of Ernest Clarke.
That Lewis had chosen to publicly tear open a breach in a friendship that had lasted more than thirty years at a time when the other two principals, Scobie and Clarke, were both absent from Melbourne, upset Scobie more than the announcement itself. Scobie only learned of Lewis’ action when a paragraph in a Sydney newspaper was brought to his attention while waiting for the return train to Melbourne at Central railway station on a Saturday night. Lewis was 55 years of age at the time. Lewis’s action came fast upon a disagreement between himself and Scobie over the mount on Petau in the Bendigo Cup a few weeks before. At that meeting, Lewis was asked by Scobie to take the mount on Petau, a horse owned by Clarke, at the last moment but bluntly refused. It was understood that apprentice H. Moran, who had been getting many of the Scobie mounts in the weeks beforehand, would have the ride on the well-supported Petau. When Scobie, realising that Moran could not claim an allowance, offered Lewis the mount, he was dumbfounded to hear the veteran refuse.
Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in this world than even malice and wickedness and Scobie never wholly despaired of being able to contrive a rapprochement. Indeed, the breach wasn’t to last, and the estrangement ended in September 1935. Despite resisting to the very end, Lewis finally resigned his licence in 1938 after 46 years in the saddle, to become a grazier – conducting properties at Glenroy and Ferntree Gully. Asked prior to his retirement to name the best five horses he ever saw or rode, Lewis rated La Carabine the best stayer, Trivalve the best-staying three-year-old, Manfred the fastest horse, Wolowa the smartest from the barrier, and Phar Lap, the best all-rounder. The great jockey died at Glenroy on March 31st, 1947.
And while on the subject of jockeys, whatever became of Stan Davidson, the teenager who came in for some criticism over his controversial ride on the favourite Winalot in that 1927 A.J.C. Derby? The young man went on to win his share of good races although he was never to enjoy a year such as 1927 ever again. Just two days after that Derby, Davidson partnered Ramulus to win the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate and the following year he won the A.J.C. Summer Cup on Donald, a name that he subsequently gave to his ill-fated first-born son. Other notable victories in the saddle included the Tattersall’s Carrington Stakes twice more on Delmestor and a series of weight-for-age wins on Chatham including the Warwick Stakes, Randwick Stakes, W. S. Cox Plate and Craven Plate on those occasions when Chatham’s regular jockey Jim Pike was suspended.
Davidson also won an Oakleigh Plate on Arachne for trainer Johnnie Donohoe and owner Norman Robinson, although it cost him a two-month holiday when he crossed too sharply. It was Davidson who had partnered with the mare’s half-brother Grecian Orator when that horse broke his neck in a fatal fall in the 1927 A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap. Davidson, arguably Sydney’s tallest jockey, was constantly stalked by weight problems, which were only compounded by suspensions such as that incurred in that Oakleigh Plate. And this limited his riding opportunities. Comparisons were often drawn between Davidson and the younger Jack Thompson, and not just because of their height. Each hailed from towns on the N.S.W. north coast and each had been distinguished show riders as boys. Each also won the Sydney jockeys’ premiership while still (or almost) an apprentice. Thompson, of course, had a more distinguished career but he also suffered fewer injuries.
Stan Davidson eventually succumbed to his unequal struggle with the scales and retired from the saddle in July 1950 at the age of forty-two. He initially became the licensee of a wine shop in Kandos. But the siren call of the racecourse proved too strong to resist. Davidson relented in August 1955 and swapped his liquor licence for a trainer’s licence. Initially setting up in Newcastle for three years, he later moved to Hawkesbury. Davidson was granted a No. 2 licence by the A.J.C. in 1958 and trained his first metropolitan winner, Val Yvette, in January 1960. Although never a particularly prolific trainer, a No. 1 licence followed in July 1965. Sadly, he held it for less than a year. In May 1966, Stan Davidson died in hospital from internal injuries received after being kicked by the filly Sea Sprite at Warwick Farm several days before.
And before I leave this chapter, perhaps I should mention in passing what became of Winalot and the other prominent Derby horses in the class of 1927. Winalot continued to race into his five-year-old season, but never again quite recaptured the eclat of his autumn three-year-old days. As a four-year-old in the spring of 1928 but for Limerick, he would have won both the A.J.C. Warwick Stakes and the Tattersall’s Chelmsford Stakes, although he did gain a measure of satisfaction when he later dead-heated with that New Zealand champion in the A.J.C. Spring Stakes. It was the race that was the prelude to the end of Limerick’s unbeaten thirteen-race sequence. At the time, Winalot, despite an impost of 9 st. 4lb, ruled as the Melbourne Cup favourite. However, his failure in the A.J.C. Randwick Plate on the last day of the 1928 A.J.C. Spring Meeting when as the 2/5 favourite, he was surprisingly beaten by the outsider Bacchus (with Limerick hors de combat), soon saw him dislodged in the Cup betting. He receded even further in the markets when he later ran unplaced in both the W. S. Cox Plate and the Melbourne Stakes.
Nonetheless, E. K. White still had the satisfaction of seeing his colours of ‘green, white Maltese cross and cap’ go round in Australia’s richest race with Winalot carrying the No. 1 saddlecloth. However, he could only manage to run fifth in the race won by his fellow four-year-old and former Derby rival, Statesman, carrying 18lb less. Winalot ended that spring campaign by running second to Gothic in the C.B. Fisher Plate on the final day of the 1928 V.R.C. Spring Meeting, beating Statesman among others. Gothic was in wonderful form at that meeting having previously won the Melbourne Stakes and the Linlithgow Stakes earlier in the week, and in beating Winalot on the last day he had to run an Australasian record of 2 minutes 29½ seconds to do so. In the autumn, Winalot came back to win the R.R.C. Rawson Stakes over nine furlongs, thereby upsetting the odds laid on Limerick, but it was his only win of the campaign. In his main mission, the 1929 Sydney Cup, Winalot’s weight anchored him a long way from home in the race won by Crucis.
As a spring five-year-old, Winalot won both the R.R.C. Hill Stakes and the A.J.C. Spring Stakes en route to his third Melbourne Cup, in which he was weighted with 9 st. 5lb, although that year the race was widely expected to be a cakewalk for the sensational three-year-old, Phar Lap. The irony of Winalot’s participation in that Melbourne Cup was that he was being ridden by none other than Jim Pike, Phar Lap’s regular jockey when weight permitted. In a fourteen-horse field, Winalot only managed to beat two horses home. Returned to training the following autumn, Winalot’s troublesome off-foreleg finally made him impossible to train and he was retired from the racecourse. He won just nine races over four seasons on the Turf but his total stakes winnings amounted to £17,921 with about £15,000 of that sum accruing to E. K. White after buying him as a spring three-year-old. Strange to say, Winalot never won a race in Melbourne despite being campaigned there over three spring meetings. Clearly, old Harry Chisholm was on the money when he named Winalot. The only problem was that Fate stepped in and most of the lot that Winalot won went into another man’s pockets!
After Winalot’s breakdown, White sold the horse to North Queensland breeder, T. J. Salmon, who installed him at the head of his stud at Burdekin Downs. Winalot only served two seasons there. He died in January 1934, destroyed as a result of injuries sustained when he galloped into the fence surrounding his yard; he was buried on the Bluff Downs in the Charters Towers district. Considering the limited opportunities Winalot received at the stud, he sired some useful gallopers although none of his progeny ever won an important race on the Australian Turf. What about some of the other starters in that 1927 A.J.C. Derby?
Sion proved an expensive horse to Ned Moss, for apart from his 4100 guineas outlay at the yearling sales, he dropped a lot of money on him on the racecourse, particularly during his inglorious two-year-old season. When Sion belatedly redressed some of the financial imbalance by winning a highweight handicap at the A.J.C. Anniversary Meeting, it was the very last occasion that he carried Ned’s famous green and black jacket. Even then, he was the subject of an unruly public demonstration at the judge’s controversial decision in a close finish. At the end of January 1928 and with Fred Williams retiring and going to England, Moss offered both Vaals and Sion for sale through William Inglis. Whereas Vaals was passed in at 2500 guineas, Sion was knocked down to Bob Miller for 1600 guineas. I might add that Bill Kelso, Bob Miller’s trainer at the time, wasn’t too thrilled to get Sion. Bill was never very enthusiastic about anything much, save Jim Pike and Statesman, and he was less than usually enthusiastic about Sion. “They tell me he makes a bit of a noise,” said Bill, alluding to Sion being a windsucker, “and I can make all the noise that I want about the stable myself.”
Still, Miller never lost all that much on the deal with Kelso training Sion to win the Highweight on the first day of the 1928 A.J.C. Autumn Meeting with Jim Pike in the saddle. But even Miller eventually became exasperated with the horse’s inability to live up to his track gallops and sold out soon after. Sion won only five races in his entire career but was at his best as a four-year-old when trained by Chris O’Rourke. In the spring of that season, he finished second in the Epsom Handicap – beaten a half-length by Amounis – while in the autumn he lost the Doncaster by half-a-head to Karuma, conceding him half-a-stone. Sion did, however, develop into the fine stamp of a stallion he always promised to be and won the Royal Agricultural Society’s blue ribbon in the blood stallion class at the 1933 Sydney Royal Easter Show. He later stood at Alan Cooper’s Segenhoe Stud, where, among his progeny, was the 1943 Stradbroke Handicap winner, Ballyvista.
Perhaps the best-remembered horse from that 1927 Derby field, apart from Trivalve himself, was the other Melbourne Cup winner numbered among the starters. I refer, of course, to Bill Kelso’s old favourite, Statesman. Kelso bred the colt from a Martagon mare, Marcelle, which he kept at the Kia Ora Stud. As we have seen, Statesman, after the A.J.C. Derby, went to Melbourne where he beat all but Trivalve in the Victoria Derby and then ran sixth to the same horse in the Melbourne Cup. Kelso then laid out a long-term plan to win the following year’s Melbourne Cup with the handsome chestnut son of Demosthenes. The canny old trainer didn’t start the horse again until after the weights for the 1928 Cup were declared and Statesman allotted eight stone. The stable then proceeded to back their charge in a series of well-priced wagers that eventually saw Statesman firm to near favouritism. Partnered by Jimmy Munro, Statesman upheld his part of the bargain when he rather easily defeated Strephon for the biggest slice of the prize.
Unfortunately, he broke down during the following autumn. Kelso then took the unusual step of having him gelded relatively late in life – as a late-season four-year-old – and gave the horse a very long spell in the vain hope that the injured leg would mend. But Statesman was good for just two more starts before Kelso was forced to retire him permanently. Statesman might have only won three races over four seasons on the Turf, but they were the brand of wins that resulted in a tidy accretion to the Kelso bank account. Each of the victories involved big betting coups, and the Cup prize itself in 1926 was worth almost £10,000 to the winner. When Kelso decided to give Statesman away, the old fellow provided new and satisfying service as a lady’s hack for a certain Mrs Traill.